Everyone in education knows that holiday break is not really for the students. It is for the teachers. We can finally sit down, spend some quality time with our families, and catch up on lesson plans and reading.
Ah, yes, reading. The thing that everyone thinks librarians do all day. Sometimes, I wish I did! I see great looking books get returned or checked out and I just want to sit there and read them.
I am finally reading This Book is Overdue. My hardcover copy that I bought before starting grad school is still packed in a box somewhere, but my holiday money has purchased the Nook copy for a whopping $1.99 (awesome). I know the book is a little older, but the information is still great. I’ve been reading about librarians who blog, such as Librarian In Black, who I do read and link to.
I’m also reading Library: an Unquiet History. There is some great overlap. For example, Library states:
“The emperor appears to have sought control not only over classical learning but over all intellectual work; the work of doctors and diviners operation outside imperial restrictions would have presented a clear threat to the new emperor’s secular authority. Shi Huangdi seems to have realized what the Ptolemies in Egypt had discovered: that a monopoly on intellectual resources was as important to rule as imperial control over the production of rice and silk.”
This is logical; those who control the information, control the minds of the populace.
“Librarians’ values are as sounds as Girl Scouts’: truth, free speech, and universal literacy. … In tight economic times, with libraries sliding farther and farther down the list of priorities, we risk the loss of their ideals, intelligence, and knowledge, not to mention their commitment to access for all — librarians consider free access to information the foundation of democracy, and they’re right. Librarians are essential players in the information revolution because they level that field. They enable those without money or education to read and learn the same things as the billionaire and the Ph.D.”
I’m nowhere near done with either book, but I feel that parallel is important. Education, whether directed or personal/free-form, is what helps people become empowered. I feel that sometimes, information is purposefully withheld by whatever Powers That Be. When you’re a little kid, your parents withhold information; this may be for your own good. When you’re in school, teachers may withhold information, possibly because a topic is controversial or isn’t allowed to be discussed per the school board. When you’re an adult, perhaps the media withholds information, maybe to prevent whatever the higher ups may fear would happen if the full story was told.
Librarians do our best to provide access to full, unbiased, information. School librarians teach students how to determine bias in articles. I love the Opposing Viewpoints series of books and databases from Gale (thank you, MBLC). I can show students that the Viewpoint articles are truly essays based on a biased opinion and therefore, should be taken as such. The information can be very useful, but that bias needs to be considered. We also show students how to analyze websites and double check information. I had a student inform me about NY’s “Stop and Kiss” policy… I had to explain that The Onion was satire, and not real news.
This access to information, and the ability to sort fact from fiction, is a key piece of freedom.